Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 1: Engagement

Activity time: 90 minutes

Preparation for Activity

  • See the general suggestions on Engagement in the program Introduction, under Implementation.
  • If there is a Buddhist center or temple nearby, arrange to attend a regular service. These might include meditation sittings or teachings from the Dharma. If this option is available, ask your contact:
    • What should your group know for the visit: how to dress, how to behave, and what might be asked of them. Share these guidelines with the participants before the day of the visit.
    • Are youth frequently in attendance? If the Buddhist youth meet at a separate time, ask if the two youth groups can meet together.
    • Can there be an opportunity for a question-and-answer session, perhaps after the service?
  • Optional: Prepare a handout of questions for the youth to keep in mind during the service, for example: What does the worship space look like? Is there an altar? If so, what is on it? Is there music? What instruments, if any, can you hear? Is the music live or recorded? Is there singing? Is there other art? Is anyone wearing special clothing? If so, what is it like? Do you know why they are wearing this? Do people participate differently because of their gender or age? What languages can you hear?
  • If there is no appropriate venue for the group to visit, arrange with a Buddhist center, Buddhist monk or nun, or Buddhist practitioner to host a meditation session for your group. To prepare:
    • Arrange to use an off-site location or a quiet room in your congregational building where the group will be undisturbed.
    • Discuss the parameters of the session with the practitioner. Since it's likely that the group is inexperienced in meditation, more than 15 minutes will seem long to them. Suggest the practitioner aim for a 5–10-minute "talking them in" and then a 2–5-minute "talking them out."
    • Make the practitioner aware of any mobility constraints among the participants.
    • Ask if the practitioner is willing to stay and answer questions after the meditation.
    • Instruct participants to wear comfortable clothing that is appropriate to the kind of meditation they will be doing.

Description of Activity

Youth visit a Buddhist temple or center or participate in a meditation session.

Visiting a Buddhist Temple or Center

Remind participants beforehand that they will be visitors in other people's sacred home. They come not as observers, but as people of faith worshipping with other people of faith. Some things will be unfamiliar and surprising; they should save their observations for discussion later. This is a learning opportunity and a privilege.

At the site, support the host in whatever ways you can.

After the service, if you've pre-arranged a question-and-answer session, guide the youth and host through the questions you've prepared and any questions that arose for youth during the service.

Before leaving, be sure to thank your host.

Participating in a Meditation Session

Remind youth that they are about to engage in a spiritual practice and should treat it with the same respect they would accord any other spiritual practice.

Depending on which form of meditation your practitioner leads you in, there may be talking, intoning, or walking throughout the mediation. Participate or actively observe, and take note of your own experiences to guide the post-engagement discussion.

If you pre-arranged a question-and-answer session following the meditation, guide the youth and host through their questions.

Be sure to thank your host.

Concluding Either Type of Engagement

When the engagement is done, process the experience. Ask participants for their immediate responses. Prompt them with guiding questions, as needed.

The questions you ask will vary depending on which engagement option you chose. For the temple visit, you might ask:

  • What do you remember most about the service?
  • Was there a sermon? If so, can you imagine the same sermon being given at a UU congregation? Why or why not?
  • Were there readings from the Dharma or other Buddhist teachings? Did you understand the readings?
  • How was this engagement unique from other visits?

For the meditation session, you might ask:

  • Was it difficult to sit still for so long?
  • Was it difficult to keep your mind focused and clear while trying to walk slowly? Did you find your thoughts wandering? What did you do when that happened?
  • Was the music distracting?
  • Were the instructions clear?
  • Would you like to try it again?
  • What benefits do you see in engaging in regular meditation?

Ask participants:

  • Do any of you have a regular spiritual practice-reading from some spiritual literature, thinking, journaling, walking your dog, running?
  • Would you consider that a form of meditation? Does it serve the same purpose-clearing, calming, and focusing the mind and feelings?
  • Why do you consider this a spiritual practice? How does it make you feel?

Thank the youth for their thoughtful participation.

Including All Participants

If the group will go to a temple or center, visit it ahead of time to determine any accommodations needed for youth with disabilities. If the group will participate in a meditation that involves movement, discuss with the leader how participants with mobility challenges can participate in a meaningful way.